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Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

September 27, 2011

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things.

When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

 

The first time I heard of Daughter of Smoke and Bone I knew immediately that I wanted to read it. Since then, there has been the biggest buzz online over this book, perhaps bigger than anything I’ve seen all year. I tried my hardest to avoid all the reviews and the little extracts there were popping up on Facebook and Twitter. All I wanted to do was just read it. Luckily, a lovely rep from Hodder & Stoughton came in to work and handed me a copy, just like that. Of course the big question is: does it live up to the hype? I can now tell you with absolute certainty that it does, in fact it may even have exceeded my expectations!

I don’t even know how I will begin to do this book justice here in my review, but if I could sum this book up in one word it would be: magical. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the book you will feel like you’ve waited your whole life for, it’s the kind of book you want every book to be like, and once you’ve read it you know that nothing else could possibly compare. It’s been a long time since I’ve loved a book so much that I’ve savoured every word and read it as slowly as I possibly could, fighting against my need to find out what happens next.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first book in Laini Taylor’s new fantasy trilogy. It is considered as adult fiction, but I’d have to agree with many of the other reviewers out there, that in a lot of ways it does read like a young adult book. The premise of the novel is that an angel falls in love with a devil. From that line alone you can gather that this will be a story of forbidden love, so if romance isn’t your cup of tea then this probably isn’t for you. But one thing you should ask yourself before you reject this on that basis alone, is how can you say no to a book that is set in a world where necklaces are made of wishes, where through a door there exists an underground shop that belongs to a wish monger who collects teeth in exchange for wishes, where chimaeras and seraphs are fighting against each other in a battle that will never end? I know I couldn’t.

Karou is a blue-haired teenager living in Prague as an art student. She leads a fairly normal life with her best friend Zuzana and her egotistical ex-boyfriend Kaz chasing her every chance he gets. However, Karou also leads a secret life behind a door, a door that leads to Brimstone the wish monger’s shop, where magical creatures and wonderful oddities exist. Brimstone is a horned beast and a very enigmatic character. Karou is his apprentice and is frequently sent on errands around the globe to collect teeth in exchange for wishes from other traders – the better the teeth the bigger the wish. But what Brimstone needs the teeth for is his best-kept secret. When black hand prints start appearing on the doors that lead to the world of Elsewhere, Brimstone’s door included, Karou has to face a journey that will change her life forever, where she will discover more about her past, present and future than she ever thought possible. The big question is, who exactly is Karou? There is only one person who can answer that – the seraph, Akiva, the enemy of her people.

Akiva and Karou are meant to be together, that much is clear. But with the seraphs and the chimaeras being locked in an age-old battle that has lasted more centuries than you can even count, their love will either change the world for the better and bring an end to this war, or it will destroy everything they have believed in since they first met each other.

What I love most about this novel is that although Akiva is the angel, and Karou is portrayed as the devil, this story is far from being as black and white as good and evil. Neither character is good or bad, they both make mistakes and both take actions that are tied with their emotions. In other words, it’s as though they have the souls of humans rather than anything supernatural. Like I said before, yes this is ultimately a love story, but it is also much, much more than that. I’ve never liked mushy romance novels; books like Twilight where the characters just gaze into each other’s eyes and say the most cringe-worthy things to each other. This novel is nothing like that. The world that Taylor has created is utterly believable and so richly imagined; it really does come alive and jump off the page. All the characters are unique and original, with their own little stories and backgrounds. You never know what’s going to happen next leaving you sitting there in awe and wonder every time something new is discovered.

If you want to pick holes in this novel, you could say that yes the dialogue is quite Americanised, despite its setting in Prague. The dialogue between Karou and her best friend Zuzana is at times a little irritating, but to be honest, I just didn’t care. It didn’t detract anything from the story, and there wasn’t enough of it to become really irritating. Also I think what would have made this story even more wonderful would be some illustrations of the weird and wonderful characters and creatures that feature in this novel, or even some drawings of Karou’s sketchbook which she frequently uses. But for these to be my only gripes with the entire novel, I’d say that’s pretty good going considering how critical I can be at times!

There is still much more to this story, but I cannot include any more in this review for fearing of spoiling it for those of you who have yet to read it. I just cannot possibly recommend this book any more than I already have. It’s a feast for your imagination, and once you have stepped into the pages of Taylor’s novel you will only want to crawl deeper and deeper into it. I almost feel like a part of me is still there. I cannot wait for the second book in the trilogy, and the thought of how long I’m probably going to have to wait for that day is almost unbearable. Daughter of Smoke and Bone has become probably my favourite read of the year so far, and having already bought Taylor’s debut novel The Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer, I know that I will be devouring every little thing she writes from now on! Laini Taylor is definitely one to watch, and I can only sit in awe and envy her creativity and beautiful imagination. This book is like food for your soul. It makes you realise just how powerful our imaginations are, and how extraordinary it feels to be able to escape into a whole other world. If only I had my own little door to Elsewhere…

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is published on 29th September by Hodder & Stoughton. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review!

You can also check out the wonderful book trailer below:

 

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